Nursing Home Romances and Critics Who Wear Hijabs

oldhandsinlove-b102366ee923ca3e0ed6fc7e2bfd09627ca0b226-s300-c85Life has been cracking me up a little bit lately.

First, my sister Alexa called to tell me our mother, who as been in a nursing home since a massive stroke a decade ago, found herself a boyfriend. It was the last thing I would ever have expected to hear about Mom. On top of that, he’s the resident bad boy.

For several weeks over the summer, Alexa was out of the country at a family wedding. In those few short weeks, Mom fell in love with another wheelchair bound man, snuck a cigarette with him inside the nursing home, met for movie time at unscheduled hours late at night, and has totally become like a sneaky teenaged girl. Alexa has one kid, and it’s a preteen boy. She started off the conversation by telling me my mother was out of control. It was hilarious. Mom eats her meals with him in the dining hall, and holds hands with him while they watch tv. Personally, I find the whole affair adorable, and surprisingly, hopeful. I have always wondered about Mom’s quality of life in a place like that. Now, I feel a bit better about it.

Rebekkah, my daughter, has found her stride at the University of Texas. Her best homie is a girl we’ll call Athena, and she wears a hijab. I had no idea what that was until today.

Behold, a hijab:

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If you guys weren’t aware, Austin just loves its food trucks. You can’t throw a rock without hitting one around here, and they congregate en masse around UT. Athena, a Middle East native, chose to eat a falafel —  defined as a  deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas,fava beans, or both — and found it unauthentic and poorly textured. She and Rebekkah had a small discussion about the dissatisfying falafel, and the matter was quickly forgotten about …by Rebekkah. A few days later, though, Athena told Rebekkah that she had gone on Yelp and reviewed the Mediterranean Food Truck.

“I gave it 3 stars, ” she told Bek, going on to read her review aloud, ” ‘I ordered a falafel but the texture was all wrong. It’s supposed to be crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside. My friend ordered the <insert whatever weird food Bekkie told me she ate here>. She said it was good, but I doubt it.”

The harshness of the review surprised Rebekkah because, of course, people who wear hijabs aren’t harsh or leave Yelp reviews.

“Sometimes,” Athena said, ” I like to play the critic.”

Alexa went to Morocco over the summer. Turns out, she wasn’t prepared for the heat. She told me it gets to be 120 degrees over there, and there weren’t any air conditioners where she was. I won’t go into the many hilarious things she told me, except when she and her husband finally got to a hotel where there was air conditioning, she asked the front desk if they’d bring her a fan. We like the air to be moving around us.

When they finally arrived with her fan, this is what they brought her:

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It’s been kind of fun around here lately.

I’m happy tonight.

~ Bird

Then I Came Home to Austin

12841331_10153539649669053_1897104843100891352_oI believe that the worst part of my break-up with Chef was the unfamiliarity of my life without him. I hadn’t realized up until that point how important my routines — the very patterns of my life — had really been to me. Then, suddenly, everything was so different. It happened quickly, the crashing of my life, pretty much falling to pieces all at once, and without mercy. Over the last few years, it was hard to really enjoy the routines I had set up to replace the smashed ones left behind by the break-up. Yes,some tiny parts stayed the same. I continued to drink coffee in the morning, or listen to the news while I got ready for work. Others were different, like caring for stray dogs and writing on a blog. But those were just tiny parts of a whole that seemed to still not be functioning correctly. They seemed to be connected, somehow, to my old life. It was as if their very differences served only to remind me of what I once had, and what was now gone. Overall, I was struggling for every shred of happiness.

Then I came home to Austin.

As an adult, I have never lived in Austin before, but this is the city I was born in. I took my first breath here. I learned to walk and talk here, and it has forever been synonymous in my head to my father. Austin is where my dad and his family were, and in the back of my mind, I guess I always kind of wanted to just come home. I really couldn’t have timed it better. I’m fairly sure the Lord has something to do with that.

I have new routines now. The pattern of my life is not only different now, but it is unconnected to a painful past. I find myself appreciating the 12801417_521154491392629_6713478659555648885_nbeauty of this city daily, and I still get butterflies in my stomach when I realize again, I’m living in Austin, Texas. I’m still not so used to seeing my father’s face that I have begun to take it for granted. Instead, I feel a surge of gratitude each and every time I see him standing at my door. I love to see how Texas seems to suit my daughter Rebekkah; how she has flourished into a beautiful, confident woman, happy again, and no longer suffering under the burden of caring for a very wounded mother. I feel a certain pride every time I pay my rent from a paycheck I earned, and praise God at my ability to still buy groceries and other things I need with what is left over. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much to you, but I have learned only too well how it feels to have to choose between food and a home.

I’m filling up my life again, with family, with new friends, and with things. I have enough stuff in my apartment now, I can honestly say, I would need a truck next time I decide to move. I have things I picked for myself, this time. It is always appreciated when something is given to you, but when all you own in the world is stuff people donated to you, it makes you feel worse than just poor. Over time, I’ve been getting to know myself as just me. Not a part of a marriage, or a team, or a club. I’ve found that I love the colors turquoise and yellow together, as well as gray and yellow. I like rap music…who knew?! I have become both more social as well as less. I’ll save that thought for another time. I wear different styles of clothes now, and even my hair is different. I’m kind of enjoying figuring out who I am these days.

Today, I bought a new laptop; and believe it or not, it was that purchase that made me feel so reflective about my new life today. It was expensive, and I was able to buy it without despairing over ….well, anything. I needed a new one, so I bought one. The minute I paid for it, I realized, the hard years trying to recover from such a terrible break-up are officially over. Yes, there are going to be lean times in the future. There always are. But those lean times won’t be connected to Chef, or drugs, or biker clubs, or Oklahoma. They’ll just be the way life goes sometimes, and I’m good with that. I”m finally home.

~ Bird